Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Smart Woman: Madeline Hunter, Historical Romance Author and University Professor

IMHO continues our series of pre-Valentine’s day posts (from Feb 7 - 13) with the theme of “Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance.” Please help me welcome Madeline Hunter, a repeat offender on IMHO and a bestselling author of historical romance--who also happens to be a very smart university professor.

Madeline is giving away an audiobook of her NYT bestseller SECRETS OF SURRENDER, and I'll be combining that with a copy of my latest release, THE PROMISE, for one lucky person to win, so be sure to leave a comment to be eligible. Please see my contest page for eligibility rules. If your name is chosen, you must claim your prize by e-mailing me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) by February 14, 2010, or I will award it to someone else. Be sure to check back to see if you have won, and let your subject line be the name of the prize.

Ooo, how about some more romance fiction facts first? she said trippingly.

Your persistent naysayer claims: "Only lonely, desperate women read romance."

Your smug reply (statistics from the Romance Writers of America pressroom): "Hmm. That's interesting. While it's true women make up 90.5 percent of the romance readership, men actually make up 9.5 percent. And, romance readers are more likely than the general population to be currently married or living with a partner. The heart of the U.S. romance novel readership is women aged 31–49 who are currently in a romantic relationship, and you can bet their men reap the benefits of that. Doesn't sound desperate to me. Sounds pretty smart." Smackdown!

Oh, and want to see another stereotype shattered? Check out Murder She Writes and see who had their picture snapped with a romance book (you'll need to scroll down for the picture). It will make you smile.

Now, on to Madeline!
Madeline Hunter: Do You Read Those Kinds of Books?

Well, yes, I do.

There is a woman I know. She is a friend of a friend, and I see her periodically, which isn’t nearly infrequently enough. Whenever we meet, she goes out of her way to ask about my writing. How nice of her! However, she raises the subject for her own agenda. It is mostly an excuse to be able to say that she does not read “those kinds of books.”

She isn’t the first to have said this to me, and she won’t be the last. But it gets under my skin with her because of the way she says it. Her tone, her expression---her point, if you will---is that she is too intelligent to read my books.

Not reading romances is a badge for some people. For them, it is not just about simple preference in stories, or liking mysteries or lit fic more. In declaring they don’t read those kinds of books, they think they are staking out some higher intellectual ground that proves they are better than women who do.

I find this humorous, because the reader who first put a romance novel in my hands had a Ph.D. from Yale. The women in the romance community are as smart as the ones I have met in academe. Often they are one and the same.

The women who read romances are smart. For one thing, they are reading. It is impossible to be a lifelong reader, no matter what is between the covers of your choice, and not become smart even if you didn’t start out that way.

Not long ago, if a woman with a Ph.D. wrote a romance, it was treated as a “man bites dog” story by the industry. Imagine that! Do you think she actually reads those kinds of books too? Even the publishers and editors were impressed by the apparent anomaly. It makes one wonder how they saw their market then.

Those days have passed, because readers and writers of romance looked around their community, and everyone realized it wasn’t an anomaly at all. Irrespective of the readers’ formal educations, the overall intellectual level is very high. With the web, we have all been able to meet each other, and communicate, and we now know for a fact what we had always suspected from our anecdotal experiences---smart women (and men) read romances.

Bio: Madeline Hunter is both an award-winning and bestselling romance novelist and a university professor. She has a Ph.D. in art history, and has published scholarly books and articles in addition to her eighteen historical romances currently in print. Over four million copies of her historical romances are in print in the US and her books have also been translated into twelve languages. She is two-time RITA winner and six-time finalist. Seventeen of her books have been on the USA Today bestseller list, and she has also had titles on the NY Times print list, Publishers Weekly list, and the Waldenbooks paperback fiction list. She has received two starred reviews in Publishers Weekly. Her current romance, Ravishing in Red, was released on January 26, 2010.


Carol L. said...

Hi Madeline and TJ,
I have to say I love your books Madeline and have now put Ravishing in Red on my TRL. I love reading my Romance books and ignore those who have the nerve to even make a comment to me.There are so many Authors who have PHD's, whose a cancer researcher,another was a Russian interrogator etc etc.I think to myself "they don't know what they are missing. :) Their loss.
Thanks for being here today.
Carol L.

SiNn said...

I agree with Carol whole heartedly Madeline ur book sounds great will deff be checking it out and reading it. I ignore what people say about what i read and point out least im not reading a million ways to kill someone which i would if i so chose to i love this weeks blogs makes me feel good about my choice

Virginia C said...

Hi, Madeline and T.J.! Happy Valentine's Day! What a "Double Delight" giveaway featuring a book by both of you lovely ladies : ) I absolutely agree that reading romance works makes you smarter! I have never read a romance tale from which I did not learn at least one new fact, word, phrase, life lesson and etc! Reading romance is a wonderful way to be gently enlightened. I have always thought that those who scoff at romance works actually devour them in secret : )

Please enter my name in the drawing.

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Madeline Hunter said...

Carol, thank you for your nice words about my books!

I also ignore what people say. I know better. It can be tough, though, when someone puts down your reading preferences as if it symbolizes something that is negative. I think we have come a long way in educating the world at large about romances, which only makes the stupidity more annoying when it still shows up.

Madeline Hunter said...

Sin, you make a good point about what is found in other kinds of popular fiction sometimes. Our books are optimistic, and it is odd that it counts against the readers of them.

Madeline Hunter said...

Virginia, years ago I read an essay by one of the editors of a national literary magazine, and he explained how he never criticized the reading choices of his kids. He knew that if they read on a regular basis, that was all that mattered. Reading engages our brains in ways other entertainment doesn't. All that image processing, info connecting makes us smart. Then there is actual information in any book that we learn too. So I am not surprised that romance readers are so smart.

Unknown said...

Hi Madeline, I love your books and and love the cover of this one. Romance is about all I read and I am proud of it. We all learn for books even with romance novels.


chey said...

When someone criticizes my choice of reading material, I ask what they read. Often, if they do read, it's not anything I'd read.

chey127 at hotmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Great post! I've heard readers say "I don't read romance" who have never read one. It challenges me to still value their opinion ;)

Anonymous said...

That is a very charming picture.

I'm still shy about admitting I read romance, but I find that the more open I am, the more I run into other like minded readers. I wonder how many of us are hiding away? Considering the sales numbers, probably quite a few! -- willaful

CherylS22 said...

I've enjoyed reading Madelaine Hunter books in the past. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a romance novel. I read one every so often so that I don't get in the rut of reading the same types of books over & over. I like to shake it up a little.

Thanks ~ megalon22 at yahoo dot com

catslady said...

It's people that have to put down others (or their reading choices) that have the problem. They are the insecure ones and like you said, probably reading on the sly lol. There is something out there for everyone and everyone is entitled to enjoy what they want. Like it's said, their loss!!!

Your book sounds wonderful and what a cover!

Jane L said...

I am excited to purchase Ravishing in Red! It looks like a wonderful read!

peggy said...

Hi Madeline,I just got Ravishing in Red today I can't wait to start reading it.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to reading Ravishing in Red! I proudly admit to reading romance books. I know too many others who are "closet" readers and when they finally come clean then we can share favorite authors and wonderful books! I love the escape that romance reads offer. Thanks!!!